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Resentment in Ruatoki over IPCA report

Wednesday 22 May 2013 5:04 p.m.

Much of the Urewera police attention in 2007 was centred on the small Bay of Plenty community of Ruatoki.

The roadblocks in that town alone led to more than 160 people being stopped. Many were forced out of their cars while taking children to school.

People in Ruatoki certainly aren't celebrating the outcome of the IPCA report. Many say they still feel anger toward police for what happened. It's possible the controversial raids will now be the subject of a compensation bid by residents.

It was the training camps in the hills beyond the small community that led to the police raids.

More than five-and-a-half years have passed, but resentment about that day certainly hasn't.

"It's something you read about in the movies," says Ruatoki resident Molly Turnball. "They look like the terrorists, not our people."

Ms Turnball is talking about when her grandchildren were surrounded by armed police on the bus on their way to school.

"It's hard," she says. "The hurt is there. It will never be set to rest."

But the people in the community may try and set it right in court.

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti says the report gives residents what he described as "ammunition".

"I understand my lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, was approached by the media this morning," says Iti.

Mr Fairbrother told 3 News the illegal searches and roadblocks breach the Bill of Rights. That could pave the way for a compensation case for some residents.

Iti was the ringleader of the camps in Te Urewera. He won't apologise for what he did, saying it was never his intention to harm others.

"I have run several training camps," he says, "but we never came to kill or create chaos in our community."

Despite today's IPCA report, police remain suspicious. Mr Iti is still on parole from charges arising from the raids, and had a cheeky message to those who carried them out: "Kiss my toes."

Megan Thompson is another who thinks compensation for residents is appropriate. Her husband was pulled out of his car at gunpoint while taking his children to school.

"I don't think the whole valley should have been shut down for a handful of people," she says. "There were a lot of people hurt here, the majority our children. To this day they don't have much faith in police. They are still scared of them."

No matter what happens, one thing is for sure – October 15, 2005 is a day forever etched in the memory in Ruatoki.

Residents will meet in the next couple of days to discuss the possible compensation case.

3 News

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